Woman pleads guilty in Phoenix fake coupon ring - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Woman pleads guilty in Phoenix fake coupon ring

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

A third woman arrested in a Phoenix police investigation into a fake coupon ring has pleaded guilty to counterfeiting.

In July 2012, officers shut down a major counterfeit coupon scam run by 41-year-old Robin Ramirez.

A search of her home uncovered tens of millions of dollars in fake coupons which detectives say she sold on her website savvyshoppersite.com.

On Feb. 25, she struck a deal with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.

According to the plea agreement, Ramirez faces anywhere from nine months to two years in prison - in exchange for pleading guilty to counterfeiting.

"They brought charges," said former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley. "So, you assume it's (the case) prosecutable. You don't bring charges without evidence. It's too light of a sentence - it truly is."

Romley tells CBS 5 News, this deal is a dud for the public and Ramirez is getting off easy.

"It will just encourage other criminals to think 'This is the cost of business. Heck yeah, I'm willing to do two years in jail. I got 30 million bucks out of it,'" he said.

Romley said prosecutors often place a higher priority on violent crimes.

But, he points out white-collar crimes - like Ramirez's counterfeiting scheme – also have a widespread and damaging effect on society.

"What I've seen over the years is at times prosecutors look at it as a lower-level crime," said Romley. "(They feel) it's victimless. And, what it does is encourages more white-collar thieves, con people, to commit these types of crimes."

A spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office said Ramirez's deal is based, in part, on the fact that the charges against her are non-violent and haven't been brought against her before.

Jerry Cobb also told CBS 5 News the alternative would have been a trial without the cooperation of two other defendants, who also made plea agreements.

Bottom line: the prosecutor chose some prison time over the possibility of probation for Ramirez.

Ramirez has also pleaded guilty to two other related charges for which she'll serve probation once she's released from prison.

She is scheduled to be sentenced March 26.

The two other defendants in this case, Amiko Fountain and Marilyn Johnson, are expected to receive probation on April 5.

According to court documents, Ramirez has also been ordered to pay up to $5 million in restitution.

Many of her assets have already been seized.

Separate restitution hearings will be held after all defendants in the case are sentenced.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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